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Bert Bell Biography

As Coach And Unsuccessful Owner, The Commissioner, The Impact Of Television, Chronology, Further Information

1895-1959

American football commissioner

Although he never played football professionally, DeBenneville "Bert" Bell brought the game to unprecedented heights of popularity with his revolutionary ideas and hardball style of business. An unsuccessful coach, Bell shined as the National Football League's second commissioner in the 1950s. During his 13-year reign, he created the amateur collegiate draft, established strong anti-gambling controls, instituted television blackouts for home games, and oversaw the merger of the NFL and the All-American Football Conference. Bell rooted for the underdog, and always acted for the good of the game.

Bert Bell was born in the Main Line section of Philadelphia to a wealthy family with real estate holdings and political clout. His grandfather was a congressman, his father served as a Pennsylvania attorney general, and his brother was a state governor. Bell attended Haverford Prep high school and played football at Franklin Field.

At the University of Pennsylvania, Bell played quarterback for the Penn Quakers from 1915-19. In 1916, he helped Penn to a 7-6-1 record and its first appearance at the Rose Bowl. A four-year letterman, Bell captained the team in 1919 to a 6-2-1 record, which included an 89-0 win over Delaware.

Sketch by Lorraine Savage

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Famous Sports StarsFootball